Aiming for awe

What are the goals for our ministries?  To build bridges, to get people in, to share the gospel of Jesus Christ, to teach to living Word of God, to encourage the fellowship that already exists in Christ, to bring disciples to maturity.   Over here Paul Tripp reminds us that whatever other goals our various ministries have, we are to aim for nothing less than awe filled worshippers of the living God.  Tripp concludes:

a church must turn people back to the one thing for which they were created: to live in a sturdy, joyful, faithful awe of God.

This means every sermon should be prepared by a person whose study is marked by awe of God. The sermon must be delivered in awe and have as its purpose to motivate awe in those who hear. Children’s ministry must have as its goal to ignite in young children a life-shaping awe of God. The youth ministry of the church must move beyond Bible entertainment and do all it can to help teens see God’s glory and name it as the thing for which they will live. Women’s ministry must do more than give women a place to fellowship with one another and do crafts. Women need to be rescued from themselves and myriad self-interests that nip at their hearts; awe of God provides that rescue. Men’s ministries need to recognize the coldness in the heart of so many men to the things of God and confront and stimulate men with their identity as those created to live and lead out of a humble zeal for God’s glory, rather than their own. Missions and evangelism, too, must be awe-driven.

Objectives of men’s ministries

Earlier this week I pointed to the series of blog posts on gospel centred men’s ministries that the Good Book Company are currently running.

Today they list and explain five steps to take for initiating successful gospel shaped men’s ministries within the church.  Clearly a lot of these are transferable to any ministry.

  1. Church leaders need to own the vision
  2. Appoint a key man as leader
  3. Some structure must exist
  4. Make sure that those involved share the objectives
  5. The whole church must recognise the importance of men’s ministry

They then list the generic objectives that should underly any men’s ministry. None of this is rocket science but its always helpful to have these things in view.

  1. Encouraging and developing the knowledge of God and His Word in ways that foster Christian discipleship.
  2. Encouraging and equipping men to fulfil their roles as men in relationships with others.
  3. Encouraging and equipping men to share their faith and the gospel to bring others to Christ.

Trellis and the Vine podcasts

Col Marshall and Tony Payne have produced a series of podcasts over here discussing the themes and principles covered in their book, The Trellis and the Vine.

And below is the list of key principles from chapter 2 of the book, that need to be considered in ensuring our ministry is focused on the vine rather than the trellis.

Ministry mind-shifts

1. From running programs to building people

2. From running events to training people

3. From using people to growing people

4. From filling gaps to training new workers

5. From solving problems to helping people make progress

6. From clinging to ordained ministry to developing team leadership

7. From focusing on church polity to forging ministry partnerships

8. From relying on training institutions to establishing local training

9. From focusing on immediate pressures to aiming for long-term expansion

10. From engaging in management to engaging in ministry

11. From seeking church growth to desiring gospel growth

Success is not God’s seal of approval

More Monday morning wisdom from Paul Tripp here directed to pastors in ministry but applicable to all Christians.  In particular Tripp writes from experience on his wrong understanding that success in his ministry had to be taken as a sign that God was happy with the way he was living his life.

It’s easy to fall into the temptation of assuming that observable blessings – growth in numbers, commitment, desire for the souls of the lost, must be God’s seal of approval on the way I’m living my life.  In reality we need to continually cry out to God

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!Psalm 139:23-24

Tripp writes of his own experience,

I confused ministry success with God’s endorsement of my living. Pastoral ministry was exciting in many ways. The church was growing numerically, and people seemed to be growing spiritually. More and more people seemed to be committed to be part of a vibrant spiritual community, and we saw people win battles of the heart by God’s grace. We founded a Christian school that was growing and expanding its reputation and influence. We were beginning to identify and disciple leaders.

It wasn’t all rosy; there were painful and burdensome moments, but I started out my days with a deep sense of privilege that God had called me to do this ministry. I was leading a community of faith, and God was blessing our efforts. But I held these blessings in the wrong way. Without knowing that I was doing it, I took God’s faithfulness to me, to his people, to the work of his kingdom, to his plan of redemption, and to his church as an endorsement of me. My perspective said, “I’m one of the good guys, and God is behind me all the way.” In fact, I would say to Luella (this is embarrassing but important to admit), “If I’m such a bad guy, why is God blessing everything I put my hands to?”

God did not act because he endorsed my manner of living, but because of his zeal for his own glory and his faithfulness to his promises of grace for his people.

Ministry that identifies with

Paul Tripp has written another insightful article on ministry for pastors here, but the paragraph below is helpful for all of us as we seek to disciple one another.

You are most loving, patient, kind, and gracious when you realize you desperately need every truth you could give to another. You are most humble and gentle when you realize the person you are ministering to is more like you than unlike you. When you have inserted yourself into another category that tends to make you think you have arrived, it is very easy to be judgmental and impatient.

The most dangerous prayer

Paul Tripp outlines why a line found in the Lord’s Prayer,  which we’ve all no doubt said perhaps hundreds of times, is probably the most dangerous prayer any pastor could pray.

It’s a thought provoking, heart searching article and I’m sure what Tripp says could apply just as much, not only to pastors but to all of Jesus’ disciples.

“Your kingdom come
Your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven”

Preaching – a reality check

Below is a stark reality check for both preachers and those who regularly sit under preaching.  Just what should our expectations be?

“I want to prepare you by setting down a few home truths about preachers and preaching. The first can be put briefly. Great sermons will always be in short supply. Even in the case of first-rate preachers, the church occasionally has to settle for third-rate performances. And in the case of second-rate preachers . . . well, let’s just say that there are more of them than any other kind. That’s not a criticism. It’s one of the facts of church life. I’d only make matters worse if I tried to change the situation by making preachers feel guilty about it. It’s that way in every occupation. The world’s supply of top-notch saxophonists is miniscule compared with the army of honkers who live down the street from you — and the same goes for plumbers, professors, and for you as a preacher” (Capon, The Foolishness of Preaching, p. 55).

HT Doug Wilson

Is God in hell?

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. – Matthew 25:41

Last Sunday evening I got into a conversation where the question arose as to whether God is in hell or if hell is the place of separation from God.  It may seem from Jesus’ words in Matthew 25:41 and 7:23 that hell is the place where God is not. Many assume hell is the place of separation from God’s presence, but the Bible speaks of God being present in different ways in different locations.

“Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.  For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” – Matthew 18:19-20

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever — the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. – John 14:16-17

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Little Jonny won’t take long to catch on

Following on from yesterday’s post on Children in gathered worship, here’s a link to Jason Helopoulos’ tips on how to go about helping children worship with the rest of the church.  There’s no rocket-science involved but as I mentioned yesterday imagination and preparation make a world of difference.

In the few years experience we’ve gained in raising our own children, we’ve been repeatedly confronted with the fact that the biggest obstacle to training their hearts is the poor state of our own hearts. And that’s why parenting is so hard at times.

If Monday through Saturday, we as parents aren’t preparing for and passionate about gathering as the church of Jesus Christ come Sunday, why would our children ever be?  If gathered worship is something we endure, little Jonny won’t take long to catch on.

Psalm 122:1